All was dark around Peter, the pitch black only intersected in places by clouds of rapidly rising smoke; smoke that rose in grim, swirling pillars that twisted through the air like a clawed hand reaching out for its next victim. The only light came from a couple of overhead torches, set out high above him in a lopsided circle, like a giant's squashed fiery crown. There was a regular dripping noise, followed by a series of loud thuds, and then silence for a few moments; broken abruptly by a loud exclamation of "Stop!", and an abrupt illumination of the entire surrounding space as if by some secret coded command. Looking around, Peter deduced that he had somehow ended up in a cave of some sort. It was damp, and miniscule droplets of water were dripping from the stalactites on the cavern ceiling. It was unfamiliar and he couldn't even remember how he had gotten there (hadn't someone in that film he'd seen at the cinema say that if you couldn't remember how you'd gotten somewhere, it was all a dream?) But there was no reason for him to be dreaming of a damp cave, nor of the black woman currently striding towards him.
"Fuck me, it's Diana Ross!" he exclaimed in shock, jerking back. To his immense surprise, his outburst was followed by several decidedly feminine giggles. And then they appeared, teenage girls half-hidden in shadow, dressed in pearly white, with gleaming gold, feathery wings behind them. The black woman simply ignored them, but they made Peter feel vaguely uncomfortable, like the feeling he got whenever the priest read Leviticus 18:22 aloud in church; oddly self-conscious and just the slightest bit ashamed. He should be attracted to those girls, the angels, like he knew normal people like Matt and Lucas would have been. But he felt nothing for them, except a vague irritation for their mocking laughter and false smiles.
"So no thanks, but now I know I got the right person," the woman smiled.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he inquired warily. Who exactly was she and what could she possibly know about him? If she knew his likes and dislikes; and what he was likely to say, what secrets of his were safe from her? Could she possibly know about…?
"Listen up, Peter" Fuck, she sounded like his mom had that time he'd accidentally melted half of her finest leather handbag. "I may be a virgin," Okay, this was getting creepier with every word, "but I ain't new to the game. You'll be fine with Mary." A virgin. Called Mary.
"Holy shit!" He was talking to the Virgin Mary. He, Peter Simmons, was talking to the mother of Christ. And acting like a total imbecile. Jason would have been so much better at this.
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," she reprimanded him. Oh hell, he had just sworn at the mother of God. He was so going to hell for this. Well, among other, ever present reasons. In vain, Peter tired to redeem himself "Hail, oh Mary, Full of Grace..." he began, but was interrupted with a harsh glare and a sudden shout.
"Stop! Stop! Stop! Do you know how tired I am of that prayer? What'd you know, about two thousand years and they're saying that same prayer. I've a message for you, Peter. Now, listen closely, it may just save your lovelife," the Virgin Mary told him, sounding as if she genuinely wanted that for him. But didn't all queers go to hell, like they constantly told them in church? Wasn't he just a despicable abomination? He certainly felt that way whenever he wasn't with Jason, when the insecurities revealed themselves, whispering with lilting voices like Satan's in the desert. And yet somehow none of it ever seemed to matter when he was actually with Jason, especially when it was only the two of them alone. He tries not to think about him, because the very last thing he needed right now was to find himself sporting an awkward erection around the Virgin Mary, and the mere thought of Jason rarely failed to leave him half-hard and wanting.
"Wait; doesn't God consider us an abomination? Why would you want to help us do something against his will?"
"Oh, not this again! It's always the same; "The Bible calls it an abomination," she mocked, not unkindly. "My son explained this to your Jason," Jason had talked to God? When? And why had he kept it a secret from Peter, who he usually told practically everything, especially something so important, something that meant what they had together was fine, that there was nothing wrong with it? "But it's only an abomination if you're thinking about somebody else, whether male or female."
Peter's too much in shock, too surprised, to do anything but mutter dejectedly, "He's not my Jason," But Mary only winked at him, and for a moment he lets himself imagine actually having Jason properly, not just hiding away under the well-worn mask of 'best friends', kissing him openly in front of everyone. But the thoughts are like the cheap drugs Lucas supplies them with, and it feels like almost a sacrilege, wanting too much when he's already immensely lucky to have Jason at all.
"But he will be, if you just shut up and listen to what I'm about to tell you," the Virgin Mary told him, but despite her presence, Peter was irresistibly reminded of Lucifer tempting Christ in the desert, and knows that Jason is at once his greatest weakness and his strongest temptation. But before he could say anything, question any part of this bizarre situation, ask even a single question, she began talking again.
"No. Don't even go there, no, no. Come back." She ordered, sounding almost like a mis-matched, thinner version of Sister Chantelle, kind but strict. "Would I have those blasted angels with me, then?" she asked, gesturing towards the girls, still watching him as if he were putting on a performance strictly for their entertainment.
"Okay Peter, here's the deal. But first sit down, this'll all come as quite a shock." Peter obediently sits down, because you follow orders from God's representatives like you'd follow them from the priests or your parents. Once he's perched on a nearby rock, slightly uncomfortable, but impatient all the same, she resumes. And he's suddenly very, very glad she'd made him sit down, because the words sound like a mixed up jumble, an unknown foreign language, because it can't possibly be true.
But she's still talking, telling him more and more, and he doesn't know how long he can stand to bear it.
"Literally, Jason's life is at stake here. If you let events unfold the way they did the first time; Jason will commit suicide on the opening night; the only night of your play."
Peter ends up simply staring at her, shell-shocked. Jason. Kill himself. Finally, he jumps up, and disregarding the fact that this is the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ's own mother, he half-yells at her, "Jason wouldn't!"
When she replies, there's no reprimand, only cool, collected poise, like she got shouted at by gay Catholic schoolboys every single day; like it had been no surprise, nothing out of the ordinary.
"There's no question about it, Peter. Jason did." And he hates that those horrid words are spoken in such a soothing tone, altogether too kind for their monstrous meaning.
"But do not despair," Jason, dead. "Jesus has decided to give the two of you a second chance, hence my presence here. You can consider it a test of your love for each other. You'll do the right thing, I'm quite certain." she explained, then stood up, and brushing invisible specks of dust off her robes, called out "Come on, girls" then turned to Peter, almost apologetically. "God bless, and good luck. We gotta fly. It's all work, work, work; save, save, save. I'm the one who does all of it. Should've enjoyed myself on Earth while I still had the chance. Oh, but the three wise men didn't bring me nothing…" She had almost reached the other side of the cave now, where the majority of the girls were standing. "Come on then, this ain't some peep show. Come on, off with you."
"But wait!" Peter called out in desperation. She'd barely told him anything, so how would he know every hasty decision he made didn't just damn Jason even more? "How will I know what to do?"
"Baby, this ain't 'Conversations with Mary', it ain't that book. You'll know, well, if your love is true." She said ominously, and disappeared, just like the group of angels had done, in a flash of golden light, and Peter was left almost alone, standing in a now dimly lit cave with a single blonde angel, who hopped down from the rock she had been sitting on and commented idly," Sorry 'bout Madam Mary. She's a very busy woman, doesn't always quite have enough time to explain. But never mind, you'll figure it out." And she turned, as if to walk away, as if to disappear; and Peter realised that this may have been his final chance to do things right.
"Wait!" he shouts after her. "You say that, but you haven't actually told me anything of any use."
"You'll see," she says cryptically, and Peter thinks that those two words may have been the worst he's ever heard, perhaps even worse than the prospect of Jason dying, because there's so much future resignation, future heartbreaks, future failings in those two words alone that he just wants to scream; because if he sees then it'll already be too late, doesn't she see?
"No, not like that," she assures him, like she'd read his thoughts. Hell, she probably can read his thoughts, a decidedly unsettling thought. "Like, in a dream or vision or something. It's pretty hard to explain." She says, and it's almost apologetic, the way she shrugs her shoulders, but there's a hint of mischief in there too, like she doesn't actually want to explain, like this is all just a big game to her, when Jason's fucking life depends on this!
The angel must've sensed his growing irritation, because she elaborates. "Now, listen carefully. Things will have to get worse before they get better, but do not despair. If you can make this work, the two of you will have such a bright future ahead of you."
Peter frowned. "You're sure about this?" he inquires. 'Must get worse before it gets better'? But what happens if it gets so bad it'll be too late to do anything?
But the girl only sighs dreamily, "Jason McConnell-Simmons" she murmurs, and Peter has to bite his lower lip because God, really it's everything he's ever wanted, rolled together in two simple words. Having Jason fully, for real, neither of them afraid of other people's reactions. It's mind-boggling in a way, but it's also his most yearned for fantasy, that one day Jason could possibly be that much in love with him, although most of the time he can barely see how Jason could want him at all. Although, in the light of what he's just been told (and he still can't quite believe it,) he'd just settle for Jason being alive. After all, he'd rather not have Jason; even have to see Jason with somebody else, like Ivy or another one of his gushing fangirls, than for him to be dead. Cold and lifeless, buried so far below ground, so that Peter would never even be able to see him again, never again look into his eyes, or hear him laugh.
But while Peter was temporarily trapped in his own thoughts, the last remaining angel vanished, just like the others had done, leaving him with so many questions and no way to get any answers; just left to stand alone there, in the dark, with a final shout of "Don't tell him yet. He won't remember dying!"
He dreams of Jason breaking up with him, a frequent nightmare, but one that seems scarily realistic this time. He dreams of Ivy and Matt and Nadia; and Sister Chantelle singing about God in an empty room. He dreams of coming out to his mother while she's attempting to talk about other things; of starring in a macabre tableau of a confession, where Peter himself is crying, and he can actually see the priest, who actually looks ashamed of himself, and he feels as if he's trapped in an alternate reality, a whole different universe. He tries to call out, but in the dream he has no voice, and anyway, the scene soon changes, and he has Jason in his arms in front of everyone else. Only its not anything like the way he's dreamed, because Jason is gasping for every shallow breath he takes, and feels feverishly hot, and he grows limp in Peter's arms; his final words a barely audible "Love…you…"
He's seeing Jason's death, but he can't act, can only watch another version of himself fall apart; can hear Matt shouting "faggot" somewhere in the darkness but the images are swirling and blurring and twisting all around him, and there's nothing he can do to save Jason.
He wakes up drenched in cold sweat and panting; and for a single second, wonders whether it had all been just a dream. But deep down, he knows there's no way he could have possibly imagined something as terrible as that, that it couldn't have been just a horrific dream designed to torture him.
But Jason was not there.
How could Peter save him if there wasn't anyone there to save? How could Peter possibly save him if he wasn't even around, and his bed didn't look even slightly slept in?
He tries so hard to ignore the feeling of betrayal in his gut, or the faint glimmer of some incorporeal hybrid of dread and loss. He has to swallow them down, ignore them, because he hadn't lost Jason yet, and he wouldn't.
"Jason McConnell-Simmons," he murmurs bitterly, but he can't quite restrain the slight note of hopeful wonder in his voice, even as he wonders if they're all just toying with him.